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Visions of Times Past

    As I drove across Arizona today I found myself thinking about the lost world of the nineteen forties and fifties.  When cars had water bags hooked to the front of the radiators, and signs warned — “last water for a hundred miles”.  When other signs shouted out — SEE LIVE SNAKES, SEE REAL INDIANS — a casual lumping together of exotics for the white folks making their way toward California and the fabled land of milk and honey and movie stars.
    There are few vestiges left of that world.  Most of the old roadside trading posts/tourist traps are dust covered, collapsing ruins.  They’re like a old person’s face when the teeth start to fall away.  There are scars where gas pumps used to stand, and empty windows stare out at the interstate with its ribbon of flowing steel.
    As I flashed by one such wreck I could barely read the faded name painted on the sunken building THE TWIN ARROWS, it said.  One of the “arrows” was still standing, a metal creation that had once had brightly painted metal feathers.  Its partner was reduced to a single rod of rusting steel driven deep into the ground.
    There was one roadside trap that was still operating.  The signs leading to it informed me I could buy blankets made by real Indians.  The price — $7.99.
    In the midst of this kitsch and destruction there is real beauty.  The Grand Canyon is rightly named as one of the wonders of the world.  Sunset at the Painted Desert is spectacular, and I’ve always loved the Petrified Forest.
    I was on the road earlier than I’d hoped, but rain was moving into California, which meant snow in Flagstaff, and I’m driving my Mercedes two seater sportscar.  It is a disaster in the snow, and I wasn’t keen to take the southern route home.  It adds four to five hours, and you have to drive through Mordor.  Okay, it’s not really Mordor, but it’s close.  The southwest corner of New Mexico is a blasted wasteland, and I hope never to have to see it again.
    So, now I’m settled into my room at the Hampton Inn in Gallup New Mexico.  I ate dinner at the Applebees a block from the hotel.  That’s one change I don’t appreciate from the 1950’s.  There are no more little mom and pop cafe’s with the best pies in town.  Now it’s all Applebees and Carl’s Jr’s, and Cracker Barrels.  America is becoming a set that never varies from place to place.
    Tomorrow I’ll be home to see my friends and cats and dog.  I hated leaving Vento.  He quit eating his breakfast so he could snuggle with me this morning.  I had my arms around his neck, face pressed into his shoulder, and he swung his head around so he could basically hug me.  I’m going to miss him.  Maybe I’ll bring him home early.

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